What do you know about the shoulder bus pilot on I-93 north of Boston


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MassDOT begins piloting a “shoulder bus” that could allow passengers to bypass traffic along one of the Boston area’s busiest stretches of the highway.

A bus driving on the shoulder of a highway in Minnesota. metro transit

Shoulder bus arriving in the Boston area.

Massachusetts officials began operating empty buses Wednesday in avalanche lanes on Interstate 93 north of Boston — between the I-95 and Somerville intersection — to test the feasibility of a long-range pilot allowing buses carrying passengers to skip traffic in an area of ​​the area. Most congested stretches of roads.

In essence, it would create a temporary lane for buses only on the Interstate Highway.

The so-called shoulder bus test will run for three weeks, with the MBTA, Merrimack Valley Regional Transportation Authority, and Logan Airport Express buses using avalanche lanes on southbound I-93 in the morning and on northbound I-93 in the afternoon.

If testing with empty buses proves safe and successful, the state’s Transportation Secretary, Jamie Tesler, said the agency will move forward with a pilot who allows those buses to use the crash lane when traffic is congested.

“If that gets past all the checkpoints we need, we’ll be able, in the near term, to make a decision to be able to start this important congestion pilot,” he said during Wednesday’s MassDOT board meeting.

According to the MBTA, 354 bus route Currently experiencing 15 to 20 minutes of unreliability per trip due to traffic on a seven-mile stretch.

“This shoulder bus route will enable buses to bypass some of that congestion,” Tesler said. “So we’ll continue testing and look forward to seeing, if successful, that we start this beta.”

The pilot was first reported Last week by StreetsblogMASSSigns put up by MassDOT informing drivers of the pilot were spotted by residents. Other vehicles not participating in field testing remain prohibited from using the fault lane. Tesler said Wednesday that the pilot also includes other work, including removing rumble strips and posting portable message boards.

MassDOT approved the pilot in Settlement for 2020 with the Conservation Law Foundationafter organizing He threatened to sue the department on her decision temporarily open The I-93 shared motor lane southbound from Medford to Boston to public traffic. They also received federal approval for a two-year pilot last fall.

According to MassDOT, the pilot will follow the example of other national bus initiatives in other regions — from North Carolina to me Kansas City to me Vancouver.

Buses will only use the crash lane when general traffic speeds are less than 35 mph. And while in avalanche lanes, they can move up to 15 miles per hour faster than general traffic, and have a top speed of up to 35 miles per hour.

However, officials have hinted that they may consider raising the speed limit, depending on how the initial testing is conducted.

“These are the exact questions that the pilot test seeks to answer,” a MassDOT spokesperson said in an email. “For now, we expect speeds to reach 35 mph, like other national pilots. This could change after pilot testing.”

National pilots also generally require buses to return to public lanes if parked vehicles or emergency vehicles are using a crash lane, and they must submit to merging vehicles on the highway.

The shoulder bus strategy was first pioneered in the early 1990s by transportation officials in Minnesota’s Twin Cities region, which now has 300 miles of fault lanes available for buses. The local transportation agency, Metro Transit, says local officials first tried the idea and “Results. “

“Bus drivers can stay on schedule, and commuters can get to work or home faster and increase the number of passengers,” the agency said. Even better, the bus-only shoulders cost a fraction of the added lanes.

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